Day 31: Phu Quoc Island – Ho Chi Minh City – Bangkok

Today is an early morning for Pati and BeeBee. They have two flights today: Phu Quoc to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) and Saigon to Bangkok. Repacking to switch from beach to city wear is always a challenge, to keep each bag within its weight limit.

At breakfast, they avoided the abysmal  coffee by drinking the excellent hot tea.

They had a nice surprise this morning. Mr.Vinh, their guide in Ho Chi Minh City and Can Tho, emailed them a copy of a picture of the three of them in the restaurant where they had shared a meal. He had asked a buddy to take the picture. Pati sent back a copy of the selfie of the three of them in a front of the Happy Buddha.

They had arranged with the hotel receptionist for a 9:15 am pickup before getting an email from their tour coordinator that it would be a 9 am pickup. They split the difference by showing up with their luggage at 9 am for checkout. The receptionist was on the phone with the coordinator, and reached the phone to Pati. Their flight would be delayed from 11:15 am to 8 pm. Since they needed to connect with a 5 pm flight, that was a definite problem!

They left for the airport immediately and proceeded to their airline’s counter. The staff there calmly printed out an authorization for an earlier flight. As they checked in, the counter lady asked whether they had in their checked luggage a laptop (no), a camera (no), fish sauce (what? no). Apparently fish sauce must be packaged separately and specially. Pati and BeeBee made it to the gate 45 minutes before departure. After a short flight, they were in Saigon 6 hours before their next flight. There was plenty of fish sauce on the luggage carousel.

Incidentally, everyone traveling today seems to have a cold, based on the coughing and sneezing everywhere.

There is not much to do in Saigon’s Tan Son Nhat airport after walking from domestic arrivals to international departures, and still having more than 5 hours to wait. They used some of this time to get a medium pepperoni pizza from Domino’s Pizza on the second level just outside international departures. Domino’s is good when it’s hot, and this pizza was hot!

Finally, three hours before the scheduled departure time, they were able to check their luggage, go through security, and find their gate. And wait. As the scheduled boarding time passed without comment, a few passengers got the crew to admit that the flight would be 15 minutes late because the arriving plane was late. The flight took off an hour late, with the pilot promising an on time arrival (for a 70 minute flight). In fact, as the plane was touching down, one of the flight crew announced that the local time was 90 minutes earlier than it actually was.

Since the flight was international, Pati and BeeBee went through passport control on the way to baggage claim. Then out into the dark that had fallen while the plane was in a holding pattern, looking for the welcoming sign with their name on it. No sign. Walk the length of the arrivals area several times. No sign.  No internet to email the tour coordinator. (Free airport internet worth every baht, since it didn’t work.) Pati bought a SIM card for his phone and called the hotel (having no luck with the tour coordinator). They finally agreed that he was registered and told him to come by taxi. An unexpected expense, since transportation was already paid for. Go to the ATM machine for many baht. Get a cab (1400 baht, $42) at a tour kiosk in the arrivals area. Get loaded into a cab. The driver used Pati’s phone to get directions from the hotel staff. During the 30 minute drive, the driver snuffled continuously. Great, BeeBee thought: His germs will mate with ours. They coughed back at him.

At the hotel, they were met graciously and shown to a beautiful room. Within minutes, the tour organizer called on the room phone. The man was waiting for them at the airport! They should have been at gate 3!  This was news, since the arrivals area is one long connected area that they had walked several times, with their luggage cart, past many men holding signs for other people, visible to everyone there, and there is no gate 3. They “should” get the taxi fare reimbursed. The organizer confirmed a 9 am pickup tomorrow for a city tour with dropoff at the airport.

They immediately walked out to find a pharmacy for cough medicine. Successful, they ducked into the night market, since it was on their path back to the hotel. It was the usual merchandise: clever t-shirts, handicrafts, etc. As they walked down one aisle, a man sidled up to BeeBee on the side away from Pati. He flashed a card at her, and she shook her head without looking at it. She asked Pati what that was about, and he said the man did not approach him. Within seconds, another man did the same, saying “lady show.” He followed her to the end of his “route” before u-turning for his next victim. That was enough night market, and they turned to leave. Almost out of the market, they encountered several women in black bourkhas showing only their eyes. BeeBee wondered if the men would approach them (and what their husbands might do to those men).

One night in Bangkok…(Tim Rice)

Since it was 9:30, and all the eating places in their hotel posted a 10 pm closing, they checked all three. To summarize: We only have this and that  O.k. give us this or that.  We don’t have this or that. We are about to close.

And so back to their room and late to bed for an early day tomorrow.

(While Pati agrees with the contents of this blog post, he does not approve of the contents of their day. Except for the emails with Mr. Vinh.)